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Welcome to a new gardening year.
Come and join me for another season down on the plot.
My aim in the coming year is to use up as many of my half empty seed packets as possible.
Many seeds can be sown beyond their packet 'use by' date but some like parsnip are best sown fresh each year. I shall start with onions which are traditionally sown on Boxing Day but mid-January I think is early enough for me. The variety is 'Golden Bear' (packet dated July '06); sown in modules, covered with fine vermiculite in an unheated propergator in the greenhouse. The light levels are very low this time of the year so any emerging seedlings will need to be placed where they can grow on without becoming too leggy. Other seeds I will not be sowing until March in the greenhouse which I find is early enough and outside on the plot I will wait till possibly April when the soil has warmed up. Sown too early seeds will only rot in cold wet soil and there is nothing to be gained by being too hasty.
The New Year has started bitterly cold. I still have a few winter crops of leeks, swede, sprouts and celeriac to keep me going till the first of the purple sprouting is ready. Onions and Potatoes in store need to be checked regularly now for any that are showing signs of rotting. Other than keeping the plot tidy there is little for me to do now till the weather warms up.
DATE FOR YOUR DIARY
Hampshire Potato Weekend to be held on 24th and 25th January at Testbourne Community Centre, Whitchurch. For more information tel: 0785 112677 or visit http://potatoday.org
Last week of the month and with the recent torrential rain the plot is now flooded; other than taking delivery of some manure I have been unable to get on the plot at all.
The appalling weather continues now with a thick blanket of snow.
Anyone still concerned about contaminated manure can visit the Dow web site for more information.
The second half of the month and the snow has turned to rain; flooding the plot and most of the Elson site yet again.
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Last week of the month and although water levels have gone down the plot is still saturated; however I have made a small start in the greenhouse. Potatoes laid out to chit; 2 of my old favourites 'Foremost' and 'Desiree', both do well on our soil. Last year’s onion sets and seed have both germinated well. 'Golden Bear' seedlings have now been pricked out into modules and I have also sown Cauli 'Snowball', cabbage 'Golden Acre' , leek 'Giant Pot', lettuce 'Bubbles' (Little Gem type), beetroot 'Bolthardy', celeriac 'Prinz' and in 3" pots I have sown 5 'Greenshaft' peas to a pot.
A DATE FOR YOUR DIARY : G.A.H.& G.A. will be holding their annual Spring Gardening Talk on March 3rd. at 7.30 pm at HEDCA, Coombe Road, Gosport. The topic this time will be 'Preparing for Show' by Mr. Barry Newman who is a NVS judge. Admission is free to members and £1.00 to non-members. Light refreshments included and a raffle will be held. All are very welcome.
Most of the winter crops are coming to an end now but the purple sprouting is just starting to give me delicious tender spears. I have removed all the yellowing leaves and given the plants a good strong stake. They should continue now to crop for the next 2 months or so if harvested regularly.
February ended with me having to make repairs to the shed yet again after more break-ins. Elson was hit particularly hard this time with 95% of the sheds done. Many had more than just locks broken but extensive damage too. The items taken were cultivators and strimmers. With many new allotment holders erecting new sheds I would urge them not to keep expensive equipment in them. Take them home, it is a nuisance but not worth the risk.
At last the Tete-a-Tete daffodils are starting to bloom giving a much needed boost to the plot after the bleak winter.
However, my soil is still too wet and cold to sow direct so I am getting under way now in the greenhouse. With the threat of night frosts some of the more hardier annuals can also be sown under glass. I'm making a start with Pak Choi and Kohl Rabi sown in modules also Fennel which although doesn't take kindly to being transplanted I have found in previous years sown 1 seed per module has fared very well and given me some excellent bulbs for use in mid-summer onwards. If you are a broad bean fan these can also been sown now in 3" pots. Tomatoes need some gentle heat and I have sown all my favourite varieties; with the exception of Ferline F1 all are old seeds. Red Alert, the earliest to ripen cherry type, Tropical Ruby, Gardeners Delight, Moneymaker, and Market Wonder the large beefsteak tomato.
On the fruit plot it is a good idea to check any grease bands that have been applied and remove any debri. Ants in particular are very clever at making bridges over these. All soft fruit with the exception to Strawberries will benefit from a top dressing of Sulphate of Potash now. I have removed all the old debri from the strawberry beds and lightly forked over between plants.
9th of the month and I have made a start on planting the first of the potatoes 'Foremost' being my favourite. I now plant with a trowel, taking out a deep hole about 8" before placing in the tuber. Filling in and mounding up; then adding a good thick mulch of well rotted compost. They will not need any more attention now till harvest time when the first new potatoes should be ready for lifting in mid-June to early July.
I have also sown the first parsnips 'Javlin' and 'Student in the hope it is not too cold for them to germinate. Both of these have a use-by-date of '09. Cauli and cabbage sown in February have both germinated well and I shall be potting these on into 3" pots in the next few days.
The second half of the month and the weather has been just perfect. I have now finished planting out all the onion sets most of which were last years and continued with the main crop 'Desiree' potato planting.
I am still delaying any more seed sowing in open ground until April - just in case the weather does turn cold again. This time last year when the plum trees where in full blossom we had snow; in the meantime all the beds have been raked down and weed free in readiness. The Purple Sprouting is producing lots of succulent spears now and needs harvesting regularly.
Still lots to do in the greenhouse, pricking out and sowing annuals; the spray chrysanths that I over-wintered are making good new growth which can be used for cuttings. Take healthy shoots of about 2" and remove the lower leaves. Dibber them in a tray of moist compost and put in a shady part of the greenhouse. They will soon root this way.
A Date for your Diary: The G.A.H.&G.A will be holding their AGM on Tuesday 7th at 7.30 pm at HEDCA, Coombe Road. Gosport.
Down on the plot the weather is just perfect to get started with the first sowings and plantings but beware the nights can still be cold. I have made a start with the first carrots 'Nantes' and planted out beetroot 'Bolthardy' which was started off in modules. Both to be on the safe side I have covered with fleece. Peas 'Greenshaft' which were started off in 3" pots are now ready to be planted out giving them support with some twiggy branches and covered in netting to protect from the birds.
On the fruit plot I have removed all the dead debri from the strawberries, lightly forked the soil between plants and mulched well with rotted compost.
In the greenhouse there is still plenty to do pricking out and potting on. In gentle heat now most of the squashes can be sown 2 seeds to a 3" pot.
As well as the purple sprouting I now have some spring cabbage ready for cutting. Although these do not have solid hearts they are very tasty and tender lightly cooked.
In my spare time I am topping up the perimeter paths with wood chippings and have taken delivery of some manure which needs to be put into the compost bins; hoeing vacant ground will keep the beds weed free before they have a chance to emerge.
For some early Spring photos of the plot and how to plant Celeriac click here
The Easter week-end was mainly damp but I have managed to plant out the cauli 'Snowball', these can be placed about 12" apart to produce small but very good heads in late June/July. Also the first cabbage 'Golden Acre' again these can be planted about 9" part to give small but very crisp heads and Pak Choi which is very quick growing will be ready mid-late May onwards; Kohl Rabi I have given some protection under fleece to avoid the flea beetle and Fennel until it is well established in case the nights are cold.
I am still harvesting the Purple Sprouting but now also the first of the seasons Asparagus and Rhubarb.
With the onset of some over-night showers the weeds will soon emerge so keep the hoe going; and with the warm damp conditions slugs and snails will be out in force so use your preferred method of control.
Little was done on the plot the last week of the month as I have been away visiting.
One week away from the plot and everything seems to be growing away so fast now particularly in the greenhouse. Tomatoes are now about 18" tall and need to be planted out. I make sure the plants are well watered first then take out a deep hole, fill with water and allow to drain before setting in the plants deeply up to their seed leaves. Filling in and watering well again. I then apply a thick mulch. No more watering should be needed until the fruit starts to swell. Tie in and remove the side shoots as they grow on all cordon grown plants but bush plants such as Red Alert need no support or pinching out but a good layer of straw put round the plants will keep the fruits clean.
I have also planted out more lettuce Dazzle and Tin Tin both Little Gem types and now as time allows I will be planting out all the summer bedding. Bizzie Lizzies, French Marigolds, Asters, Rudbekia etc.
The daffodil foliage has now died down and has been removed to the compost bin. Purple Sprouting is coming to an end now and will be added to the compost bin except for the thick stalks which unless can be shredded will not rot down.
Some of the Autumn sown onion sets are throwing up seed heads. These can be nipped off; they will still make useable onions but will not store.
With the warm moist conditions slugs and snails are out in force; use your own preferred method of control.
On the fruit plot May is the time to be thinking about hanging up Pheromone Traps in apple and plum trees and ensure any grease bands that have been applied are free from any debri. Check all soft fuit canes are securely tied in to take the weight of the coming fruit.
Back in the greenhouse, thinking ahead to the winter crops the leeks need potting on to 3" pots now and I have made sowings of the first early sprouts 'Cascade F1' and my favourite 'Brilliant'. Also swede 'Ruby' which I sow in modules, sowing 2-3 seeds per module then thinning to the strongest one. I've made a second sowing of french beans in 3" pots although these can now also been sown outside. I shall delay sowing runner beans till the end of the month so I am not coping with both crops as the same time.
A DATE FOR YOUR DIARY - A reminder that the G.A.H. & G.A. will be holding their annual plant and gardening sundries sale again this year at the Brockhurst Site, Military Road on Sunday 17th May between 1000 and 1200. The stores will be open on the Saturday 16th between 1000 and 1200 to receive any surplus plants or gardening sundries you may wish to donate.
16th of the month and we are still desperate for some rain; the high winds are drying the soil making planting difficult but I have set out the celeriac giving the plants a good soaking first and watering in well. I will mulch after we have had some rain. Swede which was started off in modules I have planted now and covered with fleece to protect from the flea beetle. The foxes are desimating my onions either by digging them up or chewing the larger ones. I have some spare sets which I have put into modules in the hope I may just have a late crop to use.
In the greenhouse I have sown lettuce 'Little Gem', purple sprouting 'Red Arrow' for cropping next March/April, sprouts 'Topline' to use in January also more fennel, kohl rabi and pack choi in modules.
The asparagus is cropping well but again could do with a good soaking with some rain.
It appears to be the year of the dandelion and our site is no exception. However colourful they are once they have seeded they become almost impossible to remove. I have had to resort to using a glysophate weed killer zapping each plant to make sure it is killed off right to the root.
Spring bank holiday week-end and although we have had some heavy showers these last few days it hasn't been nearly enough. Anything planted now needs a thorough soaking and then a good mulch. I have set out the celeriac and made a start on the first of the leeks 'Pot'; this one I am growing under fleece again which I have found is the only way to avoid being attacked by the leek moth late in August. Courgettes and squashes can be planted out now but it is not too late to sow seed if you haven't already done so. I am growing just the round yellow courgette 'Floridor' this year and butternut squash.
On the fruit plot I have had to make some repairs to the raspberry supports. The high winds and the weight of the canes snapped the posts. I have now renewed them but sinking the posts into the metal spikes this time for added strength and support. Strawberries are just starting to turn colour and should be ripening in the next few days.
Keeping on top of the weeding this time of the year is almost a full time job. Keep the hoe going on all vacant ground unless the soil is very dry then it is best left alone to conserve moisture and hand weed.
For some photos of the plot in May and the celeriac planted out click here
A glorious start to the month has been very welcome but with it the endless round of watering again. I try to only water the crops that really need it such as the peas which are now forming in their pods and need the moisture to fill out. A good soaking once a week is better than a daily dribble. Gooseberries are shallow rooted and will benefit from this to.
Runner beans 'White Lady' and 'Scarlet Emperor' are now ready for planting. I have raised half in plants and will sow the other half direct in the soil to extend the season. Tomatoes are growing away now and need to be tied in and their side shoots removed if growing cordons. Bush varieties need no attention other than a good mulch perhaps of straw to keep the fruits clean. I am still harvesting asparagus but only for another 2 weeks when I shall leave the spears to grow on and make the fern. First of the baby beetroot is ready and the strawberries need to be picked regularly now.
In the greenhouse I have potted on the sprouts and purple sprouting, pricked out lettuce 'Little Gem' and Pack Choi; sown winter cabbage 'Tundra'. Lettuce germinates better at cooler temperatures so I have delayed making any more sowings while it is so hot.
7th of the month and the badgers are doing their worst again. My runner beans have all but a few been dug up and I shall have to re-sow. Squashes are being targeted too as are the strawberries, plants have been trampled down but I am managing to pick fruit most days. The few spare cabbages I had unprotected have had their hearts nibbled. This I think is down to squirrels. I have planted out more pack choi and kohl rabi both under fleece as the flea beatle is still about.
I have now pruned the new growth on the red currants down to 4 leaves and covered with netting and netted one cherry tree. To avoid the black cherry aphid pinch out the tips. The same applies to apples trees if there are any signs of greenfly.
The first new potatoes 'Foremost' are ready for lifting. To enjoy them at their best only lift enough to use each day. I have also harvested the first carrots and cabbage.
In the greenhouse I have made further sowings in cell trays of beetroot and kohl rabi.
Last week of the month and I have planted out the sprouts 'Brilliant' and 'Fl Cascade' to crop from the beginning of October and 'Topline' to crop from late December onwards. The plants had been potted on to 6" pots making good sized plants to set out. Planting deeply to their seed leaves, firming in and watering well before giving a mulch of rotted compost; covering with netting to protect from the cabbage white butterflies.
The beetroot and kohl rabi soon germinated and are large enough now to plant out as well.
For photos of the plot at the end of June please click here.
Before I take a week holiday I have made the final picking of the peas; removed the pea sticks and laid the plants down. The roots will put back valuable nitrogen into the soil. They can be cut off and composted or dug in later. Strawberries have come to the end now and I have given them a good 'hair cut' with the sheers, they will soon make fresh new growth and runners can then be pegged down to increase your stock but only do this from healthy plants. All the soft fruits need harvesting regularly now, raspberries, tayberries, currents and gooseberries. Cherries are ripening so enjoy them before the birds do. Do not pull them off the tree, cut with scissors to avoid damaging next year’s growth buds.
I've planted out 'Minicole' cabbage, and more beetroot and kohl rabi from an earlier sowing in modules. The last of the leeks have been set out where I have harvested the first potatoes. These I have covered with fleece to protect from the leek moth.
In the greenhouse the purple sprouting is now ready to be potted on to their final 6" pots before planting out later this month and I have made one final sowing of beetroot into modules.
17th of the month and needless to say I have come back to find the weeds taking over which will be my first priority after picking all the soft fruit which has ripened. The wild life is still causing damage and I have found most of the figs have disappeared, the consensus of opinion is that it is the the squirrels and I have been given a tip to hang advocado skins in the tree as they are supposed to be poisonous to squirrels. Grapes need thinning now and the first of the Early Rivers plums are reading to pick. The new plum tree 'Beauty' is looking good with bright red fruits.
The remaining fennel is now running to seed and needs removing to the compost bin and so is the last few kohl rabi as they will be too woody to eat now. Onions I have eased from the soil with a fork and laid out to ripen in the sun and dug the last of the second early potatoes 'Foremost'. First of the early tomatoes 'Red Alert' are now ready for picking. I have planted out the Purple Sprouting and winter cabbage Tundra.
On a piece of vacant ground I have dug a deep trench ready to take all the spent flowers, cabbage leaves, carrots tops etc. When full this will then be filled in and will rot down well before next spring and all helps with retaining moisture on our very dry soil. We have had little or no rain for the last month or more and everything now does need a good soaking. Hopefully rain is forecast for this coming week-end.
In the greenhouse I have sown Sweet Williams to flower next May.
Last week of the month has been one of heavy showers, much needed rain but trying to get the onions ripened and dry outside has been almost impossible. I have now brought them home to finish off in the greenhouse.
A DATE FOR YOUR DIARY.
The G.A.& G.A. will be holding their annual Summer Fruit and Vegetable Show on Saturday 15th August. at the Alverstoke Parish Centre. Anyone with an interest in gardening can enter with classes for children and adults. Exhibits to be displayed by 11.00 am and public viewing is from 12.15 pm. Show schedules and entry forms can be obtained from any allotment site stores. This is designed to be a fun day out for all the family.
Back on the plot it is still a busy time. Most of the soft fruit is now coming to an end and all the old fruiting canes need to be cut down to the ground and the new ones tied in as soon as possible. Cutting out any weak growth and choosing the strongest. My Early Rivers Plum tree has fruited exceptionally well but now it is has grown to large for me to handle and I have decided to have the tree taken down. Most of the lower branches I have removed and a good friend who has the necessary equipment will cut the tree down for me. It has cropped very well for the last 18 years and I am sad to see it go but for an initial £5.00 I think it was money well spent. The Czar is also very tall now but I am going to do some drastic pruning and try to retain this one as I think of the two this has the best flavour.
I have at last picked my first fig which was delicious. 2 of the advacado skins are missing. Fingers crossed I will be allowed to harvest the remaining fruits. Tomatoes are ripening now and so far showing no sign of the blight which has plagued us the last couple of years. Runner Beans are just starting to crop.
I have made a last sowing of carrots under fleece and planted out more 'Little Gem' lettuce. Cleared away the french beans which have now finished and made repairs to the raised bed.
2 rows of leeks which I had uncovered have been attacked by the leek moth and to try and save them I have cut them down to about 4" in the hope they will regrow and give me usable leeks later on. The plants under fleece are doing very well.
Last 2 weeks of the month and I am now lifting all main crop potatoes Desiree and Pink Fir Apple before they show any signs of the Blight; leaving the tubers in the sun to harden their skins before storing in hessian sacks. Any that have been damaged should be kept separately and used first. Make sure all tubers even the tiny ones are removed to avoid having volunteer plants growing next year. Celeriac now needs to have the lower leaves removed to encourage the roots to swell. To see how I do this click here
All of the summer vegetables now need to be harvested and kept well watered regularly to keep them cropping, beans, courgettes, tomatoes, squash etc. On the fruit plot I am still thining grapes and harvesting the Victoria plums and figs. My early fruiting blackberry is finished and I have cut out the old fruiting canes and tied in the new ones for next year. There is a heavy crop on the Williams Pear trees so I am now thinning those to allow the fruits to develop and avoid the branches breaking.
The month has started with some very high strong winds so my first priority is to ensure all the new fruit canes are securely tied in while they are still growing to avoid the tips being whipped off in the winds.
The Victoria plums are coming to an end now so I am starting to do some pruning before the winter sets in; taking out old and dead wood and opening up the tree a little to allow the air to circulate more. Grapes still need some more thinning - a time consuming job but necessary.
I am still harvesting some delicious figs and the Williams pears are now ripening. These need to be eaten as soon as possible after picking as they don't keep well.
The last of the main crop potatoes 'Pink Fir Apple' have been lifted and stored in hessian sacks. Tomatoes are still cropping well and to aid ripening I have removed most of the lower leaves. Runner beans need picking daily before they become too large and stringy and to keep them cropping throughout the month. Squashes need watering well now and my Jack-o-lantern pumpkins I have removed all but 4 fruits to ripen.
Remember to gather up any rotting vegetation particularly brassica leaves as these can cause diseases if left lying around.
I have planted out Sweet Williams to flower next May and many of the summer flowers now are coming to an end and need to be consigned to the compost heap. Dahlias will continue for another month or so yet if they are kept dead-headed regularly.
15th of the month and now is the time to be thinking about planting onion sets to over winter. These will give a crop to use from the middle of next May. I have given mine a head start by planting first into modules Senshyu and Radar for white bulbs and Red Barron for red. These should be ready to plant out by the end of the month.
A DATE FOR YOUR DIARY
A new venture for The G.A.H. & G. A. will be the 'Pumpkin & Produce Fayre' to be held on October 31st at the Alverstoke Parish Centre. The hall will be open for exhibitors at 8.30 am and public viewing is from 12.15 pm. Show schedules and entry forms are available from most allotment stores. Sections included this time are Home Baking and Preserves and a children’s section. Anyone can enter.
Back on the plot we have been enjoying some late summer sunshine and I have now planted out the onion sets which were started in modules last month. Spring cabbage can also be planted out this month.
Runner beans have produced a second flush of flowers and need watering well now to swell the pods if they are to crop before the cold weather begins. October is also the month for cutting down the asparagus fern, hand weeding and giving the bed a good mulch.
On the fruit plot, the apples have cropped well this year and the 'Charles Ross' in particular which is a good for eating and cooking, especially baked. The Conference and Concorde pears are still hard but will need to be kept an eye on as they can ripen quickly this time of the year. Both will store well if cut while still firm and with a half inch of stalk still intact but only store unblemished fruit.
I am now harvesting the first early crop of sprouts 'Brilliant', 'Romanesco' broccoli, 'Minicole' cabbage, carrots, celeriac, swede and leeks. The parsnips although large enough I will leave till we have had a good cold snap. They will taste much better then. The Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins I have left in the sun to harden their skins.
22nd and rather than leave the pumpkins to be trashed like my Turks Turbans were last year I have brought them home to finish drying in the greenhouse so they will be ready for the Pumpkin Fayre at the end of the month.
With some welcome rain the ground is now easier to dig and I have prepared a new strawberry bed adding plenty of rotted compost in readiness for the new Marshmello plants I have ordered. This is one of my favourite strawberries and seems to do very well on my soil.
I have removed about half of the lower leaves on the sprouts to allow the air to circulate; this helps to minimise the black sooty mould forming.
On as much vacant ground as I can I am adding a good thick layer of compost.
31st. A very enjoyable day was had by all at the Pumpkin Fayre with lots of delightful pumpkins carved by children and adults. Cakes and preserves were well represented as were the very colourful vegetable baskets. Children dressed in their Halloween costumes and we all enjoyed hot pumpkin soup. For a selection of photos click here
After a very unusually warm last week in October it has now turned very wet and windy; however there are still some jobs to be done on the plot.
I have been preparing a new strawberry bed incorporating plenty of rotted compost in readiness for new plants ordered. 'Marshmello' a mid-season variety is one of my favourites and does well on my soil. The asparagus fern can now be cut right down, the bed weeded and given a good mulch. No more figs are likely to fill out and ripen now so all fruits other than those the size of a pea can be removed. Continue to tie in all soft fruit canes to avoid them being snapped off in the winter winds. I have harvested the last of the Concorde pears and laid them out in trays to finish ripening.
There is plenty of maintenance work to be done to. Canes should be cleaned and given a soak in a bucket of bleach or disinfectant before storing away for the winter. Any Horticultural fleece without holes can be given a cool wash in the washing machine and the pegs soaked in a bucket and scrubbed. Tools to should be cleaned and given a light oiling before storing.
The second half of the month has been exceptionally wet and it has been impossible to get on the plot; trying to dig or cultivate very wet soggy soil will do more harm than good and is best left till conditions improve.
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2009 is ending as it started - under water. The pigeons however, are enjoying my brussel tops.
December is a month to reflect on the year gone by and to snuggle up with the new seed catalogues and plan for the new season in 2010.
I have been very pleased with my experiment this year to use up old packets of seed. With the exception of parsnip which is always advisable to use fresh seed I have had a very good germination rate for everything else. Carrots were the only ones slow to germinate and I did have to sow twice for the early crop but main crop gave excellent results. All the brassicas produced a100% germination as did the runner and french beans, peas and tomatoes. I would not hesitate to do this again.
'Pot' leeks grown entirely under fleece from the start have produced some superb plants and not shown any signs of being attacked by the leek moth. This is a short fat variety and will stand the winter well.
Still to harvest are parsnips, carrots, celeriac, swede, leeks, sprouts and cabbage, with purple sprouting to come in the spring. In store I have butternut squash, potatoes and onions. Onions are not keeping so well this year and do need to be checked over regularly and removing any that are showing signs of going soft and rotting.
It now remains for me to wish you all a very Happy Christmas. I hope you have had plenty of good gardening in 2009 and look forward to doing it all again in 2010. I shall be back in the New Year as soon as weather conditions allow.
Many thanks for all your support.
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